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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Sony Open prop bets: Why Kevin Na is the man to back in Hawaii

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Across the bay this week to Waialae and, as always, the idea behind the prop bets column is to highlight some of the side bets available away from the win market, covered by colleague Matt Vincenzi. 

Here are the three players for you to take a look at this week on some side markets in Hawaii.

Kevin Na Top 5/Top 10 +550/+275

It was extremely tempting to get with Marc Leishman, but his price has now disappeared and Kevin Na rates better value to nab a place on the front page of the leaderboard.

Both played well last week with world number 27, Na, continuing a season of excellent results that started when winning here last year and concluding with his fifth win in four years at the season-ending Tour Championship.

That win from a high-class field came via a top-15 at Augusta, and a pair of tied-second placings at the John Deere and, more significantly, at Sedgefield amongst a top-10 that included winner Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, two of those being past winners at this event.

Looking down the list of best finishes, the 38-year-old repeats form at the same places, winning twice at the Shriners and medalling at the FBR (Pheonix) Open, no surprises given the skill set required – forget driving distance, get it on the fairway, and give yourself a chance.

Figures at the Plantation course read well given the length of the track, and he comes here having improved his 2021 finish by 25 places.

With a victory and three top-10 finishes at Waialae already in the bag, he can go very close to joining Ernie Els and Jimmy Walker as two-time winners.

Aaron Rai Top 10/Top 20 +700/+330

It’s nearly five years since the 26-year-old took the Challenge Tour apart with three victories before the middle of Summer and he hasn’t stopped since, justifying his lofty reputation.

Like many of the more tactical players in the game (Simpson, Kisner, Na et al. ) Rai is far more a thinker than a bomber, his win in the horrendous conditions of the Scottish Open a testament to the patience and game-play he shows from week to week.

Whilst he, perhaps, should have won the Irish Open the week before, he succumbed only to another accurate short game wizard in John Catlin before ending the year high in the lists of everything that involves accuracy over strength.

It’s taken a short while for Rai to settle on the PGA tour via a runner-up on the Korn Ferry tour and the finals, but results at the end of 2021 suggest if he gets the right conditions, he can compete in this grade.

Three consecutive top-20 finishes read well – at Mayakoba (where four players have won there and at this week’s track), Houston and at the RSM Classic, the Sea Island track giving form links with Kisner and Simpson again as well as Charles Howell III, winner at the coastal track and with ten top-10 finishes here.

Rai is tidy off the tee, rarely ranking outside of the top-20 for accuracy, thinks hard when calculating his approach shots, and this is almost a perfect course for him. As discussed on the Across The Pond podcast, it’s doubtful that he will hole enough to get to the winning number, but he is young and ambitious enough to continue to improve, and any repeat of results over the last couple of months of last season will see him land the wager.

Aaron Rai to be Top English player +120

I make the case for Rai above, and surely anything near his better play will be enough to see off David Skinns, Callum Tarren and Luke Donald at a generous odds-against.

As with Leishman last week, it is not only the strength of one but the weakness of the opposition that makes a valid play, and I see no reason or how there is any evidence to support any of the other three combatants.

Consider that 44-year-old Donald has seen much better days, with just a couple of top-10 finishes in four years and little to speak of since a top-20 at the 3M Open. Het he looks the only real alternative given the zero encouragements from the remaining pair. That isn’t saying much.

Skinns is a PGA rookie at 39 years of age, lost strokes everywhere from tee-to-green in all four PGA starts at the end of last season, has never played here and simply can’t hold a candle to Rai’s standard level of form, whether that be top-15 at Wentworth or 26th at the WGC St Jude. Cross him out.

Tarren at least may have a semblance of improvement there but has failed to win anywhere as a professional.

Winless at a much lower level, he missed the cut at the KFT finals before starting his PGA career with three missed-cuts. In between those, the Englishman was disqualified at the Bermuda Championship for incorrectly signing his card at halfway, although he was almost certain to miss the weekend, anyway.

Odds against? Yummy. Bet of the week.

Brian Stuard – Top 10/Top 20/Top-40 +1000/+400/+150

A tad more speculative, take the 39-year-old to be ready enough to make a profit at one of his favourite courses.

Looking over his history, Stuard has appeared on the upper echelons of the leaderboard at Mayakoba, Sea Island, at Riviera and at the Pheonix Open. All courses that link to players that have placed at Waialae over the past few years.

In amongst a series of missed cuts in 2021, Stuard finished tied-6th at the 3M but more significantly, top-15 at Sedgefield and in the top-10 at the John Deere, surrounded by Kevin Na, Patton Kizzire and Russell Henley, all winners here at the Sony.

Returning at a course on which he has four top-10 finishes from nine starts, expect to prove better than his outright odds show. 

Finally, I won’t put the bet up as it is odds-on but with Abraham Ancer playing some of the worst golf of recent years at last week’s event, course specialist Russell Henley is well worth a look in a pick-em betting heat.

Finishing his season with a couple of top-7 finishes in a run of eight cuts made, he also boasts three top-20 finishes alongside the win here, a figure that far outstrips his opponent’s best of 29th and two missed-cuts in four tries.

Your choice, but I’d have made the older man a touch shorter in the market.

 

 

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  1. Slow Na

    Jan 18, 2022 at 10:35 pm

    Well that didn’t end well

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Opinion & Analysis

What does it really take to play college golf?

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

Our sample was comprised of 27 junior boys and 24 junior girls. Most of our respondents were either white or Asian. As for some other notable statistics, 67% of boys reported working with a coach once a week, while 100% of girls reported working with a coach at least once a week. In addition, 67% of boys were members at a private club, while 100% of girls were members of a private club. Here are some other interesting findings from the data:

-The average scoring differential for a boy who committed to college golf was -1.48
-The average scoring differential for a girl who committed to college golf was 3.72
-The majority of the sample reported having played over 100 tournaments
-The average boy was introduced to the game at 7 years old
-The average girl was introduced to golf at 12 years old
-The average boy first broke par at 12
-The average girl first broke par at 17
-67% of boys and girls who responded reported having won at least 10 tournaments

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was the amount of competitive golf being played. The data shows that 67% of players report playing over 100 tournaments, meaning they have close to 1,000 hours of tournament experience. This is an extremely impressive amount given all respondents were teenagers, showing the level of dedication needed to compete at the top level.

Another interesting showing was that 75% of boys surveyed reported receiving “full scholarship”. At first glance, this number seems to be extremely high. In 2016, in a GolfWRX that I did with Steph Acosta, the data we collected estimated this number was between 5-10%. This number is seven times greater, which could be due to a low sample size. However, I would also speculate that the data speaks to the extrinsic motivation of players in the data set, as they feel the need to get a scholarship to measure their athletic success.

Finally, boys in the survey report playing with a mixture of elite players (those with plus handicaps) as well as 5-9 handicaps. On the other hand, no female in the study reported playing with any plus handicaps. It also stood out that 100% of junior girls report that their fathers play golf. In ongoing research, we are examining the reasons why young women choose golf and the impact their environments have on their relationships with golf. The early data is very interesting and we hope that it can be published by the end of this year. Altogether, we suspect that girls hold lower status at golf courses and are less able to establish competitive groups to regularly play with. This could impact how long they stay in the sport of golf as well as their competitive development.

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Club Junkie: Callaway Jaws Raw wedge review and Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books

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Review of the new Callaway Jaws Raw wedge and the new Z Grind sole on the lob wedge. Great spin and improved shape make it my choice over the Jaws MD5. Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books are highly detailed and catch all the slopes on the green.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: An in-person guest visit from the Dominican Republic

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Shawn and Munashe tag team their efforts with Roberto. Whom we have had the pleasure to host in the last Month.

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